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Tucson, Arizona, United States
I work as Panther Peak Bindery and am a bookbinder, conservator and instructor working outside Tucson, Arizona for individual and institutional clients across the country. I am a two term President of the Guild of Book Workers, was a Fulbright Scholar, taught at North Bennet Street School for over nine years and was the fastest in my middle school class at running up and down a flight of stairs (really!).



Monday, June 6, 2016

The Bard and me, and a secret

Sometime last Fall I was approached to do something to go with the display of the Shakespeare First Folio which was coming to town.  After talking with them I proposed making a binding in the style of books of that era, but with cut aways so that people could see the insides. See the structure.  This Folio is from the Bodlean Library in its original binding.

It was then proposed that the first few pages of the Folio would be printed using the letterpress equipment in the UA Art School on some handmade paper.

Great ideas all around.

Unfortunately we live in a society where public cultural institutions are gasping for air.  Well, not their basketball or football teams but, you know, the school part of the equation.  This meant that there wasn't any money for it.  Like virtually none.  Karen Zimmerman at the Art School is fantastic, and took on the printing of the pages. Which involved getting plates made and finding a student to do the printing.

But, because there were no funds, she had to do it when she could find the time.  Money and time sort of go hand in hand, money sort of buys time.  Karen couldn't get to it until January. She's busy, she's teaching, the holidays were happening.  And she had no money to hire someone to take it on as a project.  It's one thing to ask a student to print a few pages, a whole other thing to do all the leg work that led up to that point.  It wasn't going to be a simple task, it takes time to find the images, she needed the plates to print, send them off, and so on...

I wanted the pages by mid-January.  I was going to go all out, even though it was a volunteer project. (I did get some money for it, but it pretty much just covered the materials.)  Edge treatments, double flexible sewing, endbands, decorative tooling.  I wanted two or three weeks.  I really was looking forward to doing the work, my contribution to culture and all that.

In the end I received the pages at the start of February, around dinner time on a Monday.  I needed to line up a video crew from the library and the local PBS station to film the process, so I couldn't do anything until Wednesday.

(By the way here is the link to one of the videos they produced. It's really nicely done.)

Wednesday I sewed it. After they left I rounded and backed it,  lined the boards, sewed the endbands. Thursday I laced on the boards, lined the spine, pared the leather and dyed it.  Friday I applied fixative to the leather dye and let that dry, then pasted out the leather and put it on the book.  At that point I watched the clock and let the leather dry as long as I dared and did the paste downs and some simple tooling.  Done.

Not what I had hoped or planned for.  But this does happen when projects like this are taken on; everyone does what they can and everyone moves on.  Who hasn't been there?  I was amazed at the work Karen and her student did, and enjoyed taking the book as far along as I could.  I also tried not to spend too much time thinking about the values of society.

But the one thing it made me want is to develop a super secret system for binders.  I haven't fully developed it but here goes:

NT should be discreetly placed in locations of bindings where the client did not provide enough time to do the necessary or wanted work.

NM should be placed in locations of bindings where the client didn't provide enough money to have the desired work done.

Now where and how exactly I'm not totally sure.  They would have to be done in a way that "civilians" wouldn't really notice. Or if they saw those notations they wouldn't register.  Maybe I should apply for a grant in order to properly research the feasibility of the idea.  We could also add

NG for no guts, but that's probably another concept all together.

The thing is that we can't let anyone know we're doing this!

Anyway here is the book.  I was rather disappointed with it when I was done so didn't take any pictures. But on the night of the opening "gala" I had my iPad and took some.  Bad pictures, but that's perfectly fine.  And I'd do it again.

In the end it was put on a table with a bunch of other stuff about the folio.  A nice place to rest your hands, it seems.  And that's perfectly fine.  It just could have been so much more.

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